Spreading Positivity with 21 Days of Gratitude

We could live in a complaint-free world.

We know, that very statement might make you want to complain — how could you possibly go on without daily whinges and rants and grumping about life’s minor and major inconveniences? A complaint-free world would be fantastically dull; don’t we all bond together over shared misery and frustration?

Well, try to reconsider. We’re all guilty of complaining, but what does it really accomplish? Sure, maybe it blows off some steam, but it doesn’t change a situation for the better. Giving thanks, however, does — research has shown that people who regularly give thanks and work to make gratitude a key focus in their lives are happier as a whole.

This mindset is where the Gratitude Challenge arose: a twenty-one day challenge to push out complaints and embrace gratitude instead. Each participant wears a band on their wrist, and every time you catch yourself complaining, you switch the band to the other wrist and start your count over. Argolog and Yearbook have joined together to bring this challenge from Ms. Bartolotti’s class to the rest of campus. Students and teachers interested in participating can pick up their own bracelet from Argolog or Yearbook members, as well as this year’s group of Senior Best winners. This is a campaign that exists not just to challenge yourself, but to change school culture as a whole.

We could live in a complaint-free world, but we can’t unless everybody tries. Take the challenge upon yourself to choose positivity over pessimism whenever possible.

Ms. Bartolotti, GGHS’ AP Psychology teacher, is a staunch advocate for the wonderful changes something as simple as gratitude can bring to your life. She works every year to share this message with her psychology students.

“Back in about 2008, I heard about Will Bowen’s campaign “A Complaint-Free World,” and that’s where it got started,” she says. “It’s something that I do at the beginning of each new year with my students. We start a chapter in Psychology where the focus is on motivation and emotion, so I partner that with the idea of New Year Resolutions. I try to get my students to go for a two-week period of gratitude. This year, we didn’t have bracelets, but I made my students write down ten things they were grateful for every day. My main thing was to get people to remember what they’re grateful for, and that even if you’re having a bad day, you can always find something good in it.”

“To me, the 21 Days of Gratitude Challenge is super valuable because, in the process of trying to beat this seemingly simple and yet actually extremely difficult challenge, all of us can really change ourselves and the lens in which we view the world around us,” says Ha Nguyen (12), one of the GGHS yearbook managers. “Rather than scanning our environment for the bad things and the things that go wrong, we begin to focus on the positive. As we stop complaining, we stop exacerbating bad situations in our head, we stop perpetuating problems, and we begin celebrating everything that goes right in our day.”

It may seem like a reach, but this isn’t an isolated cause. More and more psychologists are accepting and promoting the benefits of living a gratitude-filled life, including Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, who has dedicated his life to promoting this research.

“We’re finding it’s not necessarily the reality that shapes us, but the lens through which your brain views the world that shapes your reality,” he states in his famous TedTalk, The Happy Secret to Better Work. “And if we can change the lens, not only can we change your happiness, we can change every single educational and business outcome at the same time.”

And if going completely complaint-free for three weeks seems too overwhelming? Ms. Bartolotti urges you to not become discouraged. “It’s okay to complain. There’s nothing wrong with a complaint every now and then. But start a count — keep a tally and see how much you’re really complaining every day. If you can’t do the full 21 days challenge right away, that’s okay. Start by writing five things that you’re grateful for every day. Start small, and you can move it into other parts of your life.”

The biggest changes to our lives often come from the smallest changes in habits, and this is a perfect example. Positivity isn’t easy, but it is a choice, and it’s one that you can make starting today.